Surviving Tough Times:

What's Your Beef?

by Rich Finzer

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Maybe it's my European ancestry or some genetic predisposition toward protein. Maybe I was a raptor in a previous life. Whatever it is, no meal is complete to me without meat. I like meat. My body is composed of meat (although I have been called a vegetable on occasion). And not just any cut of meat either; I crave nice, big, juicy steaks. I harbor no feelings of superiority over the vegans that I share the planet with, but the idea of throwing a great big glob of tofu on the grill just does not inspire any sense of culinary anticipation within me.

That being said, what I don't like is shelling out too many dollars for a decent steak or falling prey to the deception put forth at the meat counter of the local grocery. Perhaps the worst example of what I'm referring to is the way retail grocers market boneless cuts with their associated higher prices. Take strip steaks for example. A boneless New York strip steak will generally run $2 to $3 a pound more than a bone-in cut. If you're presented with both options, buy the one with the bone and cut it off yourself! Better yet, as the bone imparts extra flavor to the meat while it cooks, leave the bone on and save the effort as well as the money. And speaking of bones, let's delve next into the topic of rib steaks.

For my money (and it is my money), a "ribsy" is the best tasting steak on the steer. Some folks prefer the delicious flavor of a Delmonico steak instead. Ordinarily, Delmonico steaks sell for several dollars more per pound than rib steaks. Guess what? A Delmonico steak is nothing but a rib steak that had the bone removed! Yet somehow, advertising it as a "boneless rib steak" probably wouldn't have quite the same sizzle (pardon the bad pun). And an even worse deception is a store advertising "bone-on Delmonico steaks." It's a valid description, but it merely serves to confuse customers and artificially jacks up the price by associating the cachet of the Delmonico name to the cut. When all is said and done, it's still a rib steak. And while we're discussing the nuances of rib steaks, what's the difference between a piece of prime rib and a rib steak? Nothing. A slice of bone-on prime rib is cut from a standing rib roast that was broiled in an oven as opposed to a rib steak, which is typically grilled.

Let's take a squint at two other closely related cuts of steak: Porterhouse and T-bone. What exactly is the difference between them? Not very much. Both cuts are taken from the short loin of a steer. The Porterhouse has a slightly larger tenderloin and thus generally commands a much higher price, usually $2 to $3 dollars per pound higher. But, all steers are not created equal; some are larger than others are. So shop carefully when trying to decide whether a Porterhouse or a T-bone should end up on your grill. Compare the sizes of each. Sometimes you can find a T-bone steak sporting a tenderloin as large or even larger than the one on the pricier Porterhouse. If you remove the tenderloin portion from either steak and cleave the corresponding "T" section of the bone away, what's left is a NY strip steak, which is why they are sometimes referred to as the "poor man's Porterhouse."

If you keep this information in mind, you can save significant amounts of money when purchasing steak(s). Over time, the money you can save will enable you to purchase and enjoy a decent steak more often. And as a confirmed carnivore, I can vouch that there's nothing wrong with that.

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